In the name of the Father, the Son and The Holy Spirit, Amen
As Advent starts once again, the contrast between our worship today and the world at large around us (which pretty much now views the first of December as the start of Christmas) could not be more obvious!! Our readings are challenging and that gospel pretty severe! Not tinsel and glitter at all! And there is a welcome outbreak of a minor key in our hymns which adds to the Advent feeling.
Over the next few weeks as worldly Christmas rumbles on and enfolds around us, there will be an opportunity each Sunday morning to keep a holy Advent and dip into our rich Anglican heritage. Remembering Advent is a season of expectation and preparation, as the Church prepares to celebrate the coming of Christ in his incarnation, and also looks
ahead to his final advent as judge at the end of time.
This first Sunday of Advent particularly takes up that latter aspect, looking to Jesus but beyond him to the end times. Hence the discomfort and the discord with everything Christmassy around us. In our lesson from Romans – we need to lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of Light.
How can keeping a holy Advent help us with this? Putting on the armour of light? Primarily I think this helps us to be clear about what Christmas is all about and that is Jesus (and not all the other stuff which crowds him out). To stay awake as Jesus told us to and being ready not just for his return, but for opportunities to share his amazing hope filled love with us with everyone. This is a challenging light and a penetrating light!
It’s about our light in words and actions – our life style choices and openness to God’s Plans for our lives. This time of year it is particularly important to make sure our lights are shining for God. Particularly when there is so much that shines and glitters that is not of God’s love! In the current situation our country and world is in, it is crucial to make sure our lights are shining for God. We need to find simple ways to reach out to help those around us find meaning in what is of God and not all the tinsel and glitter which we don’t need.
In the next few weeks we will gently connect ourselves with those who in different ways heralded the coming of Jesus in ceremonies involving light Sunday by Sunday. I mean in the lighting of the candles on our advent wreaths! As we did earlier.
Each one reminds us of aspects of our sharing of the light Jesus brought into the world and as we watch this all unfold – I want us to think about our lights shining in our needy world, and how we can bring our faith, our hope and our love to those around us. So they too can be children of light and children of the day as God intended it to be.
Candle 1 connects us with the patriarchs. This light represents the patriarchs faith in God. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all those from earlier times and understandings. Their songs and their stories which we carry with us – help to show us the way and inspire us through the light of the faith of those who have travelled before us to keep steadfast on the path.
Candle 2 connects us with the prophets. This light represents the prophets of old. God spoke to the prophets of a saviour that would bring peace and God helped them to share the joyful and hope-filled message of the coming kingdom. Inspire us to share your message of hope and peace in the full deepness of its meaning – not just absence of conflict but about wholeness and well being in the heart of God, now and for eternity and their example of hope.
Candle 3 connects us with John the Baptist. This light represents the son of Zachariah and Elizabeth and Jesus’ cousin. John as he grew strong in the spirit and prepared people for the coming of the Lord and baptized them in the river Jordon to wash away their sins. Inspire us as your baptised people to also prepare the way for your coming – To sweep away what doesn’t speak of you in our lives and to live true to our baptism. This is the light of the Christian challenge.
Candle 4 connects us with Mary. This light represents Mary. The angel Gabriel told Mary that she was to be the mother of your son. Though Mary was afraid she responded to your call with joy and from a heart overflowing with love. Inspire us to respond to your call to share your light with others with joy too and to respond from our hearts with love, the light of love.
All of these connect us with the past that was part of the birth of Jesus. A birth we will remember again in just a few short weeks. This empty manger is to represent all that (and how it will be filled with love in the days ahead). A birth that changed our lives forever and brought us into the light and into the day. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit he left with us.
In the continuum which is this past, our present and the future that God has for us, as individuals and, as Christians journeying together. We are the light God has to share his light with others. To show the light of the world that came for us and the light of the challenge we have to be. That light in the world with our faith, love and hope shining out as beacons to our needy world. This is the light that guides us and this is the light we share with others.
The light of the Christian challenge lived out in our faith, hope and love, connected and rooted in the past, patriarchs, prophets, John and Mary and through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In our present and in the future God has for us, let’s make sure this is the light that flows from us. This Advent let’s put on our armour of light and truly reflect the glorious light of Christ for our world. Amen.